No. 4-ranked UCLA can earn an outright Pac-12 Conference regular-season championship with a win on Sunday when it visits hosts Colorado at Boulder, Colo.
UCLA earned a share of the conference title thanks to Arizona State’s buzzer-beating victory over No. 7 Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins can now earn their first title since 2012-13 by defeating the Buffaloes.
The Bruins (24-4, 15-2 Pac-12) nearly coughed up a 16-point second-half lead on Thursday in a 78-71 win over Utah. But Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 12 of his team-high 23 points in the final 10:46, including a 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining amid a pivotal 7-0 UCLA run to hold off the Utes.
“I liked the 3-pointer,” Jaquez said of the shot that extended the Bruins lead to an insurmountable 10 points. “I put in a lot of work. … just working on my shot, preparing myself to be in these situations, knowing that this is a long stretch. My team needs me to sometimes to go out and score and make plays.”
Jaquez has scored 20 points or more in four straight games and five of UCLA’s last six. He is averaging 17.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, both team-bests, and scored 23 points in the Bruins’ last meeting with Colorado, a 68-54 UCLA victory.
“Coach (Mick Cronin) trusts me with the ball in my hands, and I want to continue to earn that trust,” Jaquez said. “I want my guys to have faith in me that I’ll make the right play every time down the stretch.”
The 54 points the Buffaloes scored in the previous meeting against the Bruins at Los Angeles marked their second-lowest offensive output of the season.
Colorado (15-14, 7-11) failed to score more than 68 points for the eighth time in nine outings as it fell 84-65 to Southern California on Thursday. The Buffaloes lost for the third time in their last four games.
In contrast, UCLA comes into Boulder having scored 70-plus points in four straight and six of their last seven.
“If we guard like we did tonight, UCLA doesn’t play at a fast tempo, but they’ll score 80 points, maybe 90 on us if we don’t compete better than we did tonight defensively,” Buffs coach Tad Boyle said. “We got two days (between games) and normally I say that’s not a good thing when you’re playing at home, but maybe it’s a good thing for this group.”
Tristan da Silva, Colorado’s leading scorer on the season at 16.1 points per game, finished with just six on 2-of-9 shooting from the floor against USC. He scored 10 points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first meeting with UCLA.
K.J. Simpson is Colorado’s only other scorer to average in double-figures at 15.9 points per game. He finished with 18 on Thursday for his sixth consecutive outing in double-figures. Simpson scored 17 last time against UCLA.
The Bruins, meanwhile, boast four players averaging in double-figures scoring with Jaylen Clark posting 13.1 points a game; Tyger Campbell adding 12.4; and Amari Bailey recording 10.1. Sixth man David Singleton is not far behind at 9.5 points per game.
–Field Level Media